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By: Megan LaFlamme on February 15th, 2018

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From Online Consumers to In-Office Patients: The Rise of Digital Marketing in Healthcare

Digital | Patient Experience | Patient Access | Patient Engagement | Patient-Provider Matching

Digital Marketing in Healthcare

Historically, healthcare providers have relied heavily on word of mouth to attract new patients. In many ways, this channel is still reliable as 50% of consumers report “friends and family” as their top resource for researching providers. But study after study has shown that healthcare consumers are spending more time online—from patient portals, to online appointment scheduling and health data tracking on mobile apps. Even when they do consult family members about a provider, many still go online to exercise due diligence, so it’s critical for health systems to differentiate themselves online.

Take a health system’s website, for example. 59% of visits to hospital websites start with an internet search. To capture these consumers’ attention, health systems face competition not just with other health systems, but also with third party marketplaces that feature out-of-network providers. And the competition online is fierce: nearly half of all users click the first link in search engine results. However, many health system websites lack the underlying technology and search engine optimization strategies to rise to the top of search results.

While optimizing Google search rankings is a key component of any digital marketing strategy, it takes more than strong SEO to attract new patients online. Overlooking paid advertising, content marketing, social media, and other key digital marketing channels will weaken a company’s brand awareness, brand loyalty, and overall competitiveness. Plus, as health systems acquire new business and continue to expand their footprints, maintaining a clear, recognizable brand can be key to attracting consumers. In fact, PwC’s Health Research Institute 2015 consumer survey found that 46% of Americans surveyed are willing to drive further to receive care from a well-known system, signaling at least some degree of partialness to brand over convenience.

Marketers across industries recognize that it’s critical to stay fresh in consumers’ minds as they encounter competitors in search engines, on social media, and digital advertising. However, digital marketing is a growing component of the marketing mix for hospitals and health systems, many of which may be relatively new to digital marketing in healthcare. While the mix may vary place to place, one thing is clear: patients are increasingly going online for healthcare information and appointments, so it’s imperative to invest in standing out.

To kickstart your digital marketing strategy and distinguish your brand online, download our intro guide and find key tips—from digital advertising to content marketing—for health system marketers.

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